Israel dismantles protest shacks near West Bank village marked for demolition
Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)
Israeli security forces on Thursday morning dismantled five protest shacks erected outside the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, the slated demolition of which has drawn international attention and condemnation.
The five structures were all built over the past few days in the vicinity of Kfar Adumim, and housed Palestinian activists outside the strategically-located village of Khan al-Ahmar.
The pre-dawn operation on the outskirts of Khan al-Ahmar raised fears among the village's approximately 200 residents that its demolition had begun.
A statement from Israel’s unit for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said that the structures had been dismantled “in accordance with regulations and according to the law.”
“The erection of these structures was advanced by representatives of the Palestinian Authority in protest and defiance of the decision of the High Court of Justice, and in opposition to the enforcement of Israeli law in Area C,” the statement said.
Israel’s High Court ruled last Thursday that a previous order freezing the demolition would be nullified within seven days, ending nine years of legal battles over the status of the village.
Activists say Khan al-Ahmar was established without permits after the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, originally from the Negev desert, were expelled from the area by the Israeli military in the 1950's and then again from Kfar Adumim, where they leased land.
Israeli authorities say that village was built illegally, without proper permits, and that it is too close the the major roadway.
It is also located in an area known as E1, a strategic area earmarked for Israeli development which forms a buffer east of Jerusalem that Palestinians say would divide the West Bank and badly hurt the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.
The sensitive zone is part of the West Bank’s “Area C”, which makes up some 60 percent of West Bank territory and over which Israel has administrative control according to the terms of the 1995 Oslo accords.
The United Nations, European Union and rights groups have opposed the razing of the village, which consists mainly of makeshift structures of tin and wood.
Israel's European allies have warned repeatedly of the impact on the local Bedouin community and the the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Diplomats from Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the European Union all expressed concern over the demolition of the village, which became a matter for international attention after officials from those nations were barred by Israeli police from visiting a school there.
A joint statement by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom issued last week warned that Khan al-Ahmar is "located in a sensitive location in Area C, of strategic importance for preserving the contiguity of a future Palestinian state."
"The consequences a demolition and displacement would have on the residents of this community, including their children, as well as on the prospects of the two-state solution would be very serious," the statement said.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem appealed to EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini last week urging the European bloc to use its “ample leverage” to prevent the demolition of the village.
It will now be left to authorities to decide when to carry out the demolition after the restriction order expired on Wednesday.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.
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It is about time. These communities spread TB, cholera.... close them down.